Indonesia’s political background
In 1999, Indonesia held its first democratic elections since 1955. Elections are popular in Indonesia. They are well managed by the Elections Commission (KPU) and have high levels of voter turnout. Indonesia has the second-largest one-day election in the world (after the USA) and since 1999 there has been a huge growth in the number of political parties contesting the elections, although the number of parties that actually meet the threshold for a seat in parliament is much lower.
However, most political parties are based around the personality of their leader rather than having a programme of policies and there is widespread corruption. Governments are usually a coalition of many political parties and the politicians involved are usually more focused on gaining power than representing the people.
Indonesia has a relatively young population. 43.3% of the population are younger than 24 and 85.6% are younger than 54. However, the political scene is populated by the same familiar faces which have dominated Indonesian politics for the past decades. They tend to still be representing powerful vested interests.
There is a glimmer of hope, however. In 2014 a new president was elected who is a complete political outsider, a former governor of Jakarta who is known for his pragmatic reform-minded style.
The approach of NIMD in Indonesia
The core of NIMD’s programme in Indonesia is democracy education. NIMD has 5 Democracy Schools in the country working at a local level and training politicians, people working in civil society organizations and people working in the civil service to give them the skills and knowledge to work well in a multiparty democracy. One of the aims of focusing this training on the local level is to achieve bottom-up change which can filter through to the national level.
The Democracy Schools have been very successful. By the end of 2014 they had produced 1738 alumni. In the 2014 general elections, 179 Democracy School alumni ran for office and 16 were elected. 77 alumni were involved in the elections as officials.
The Democracy Schools are well-managed by local partner organization KID (Komunitas Indonesia untuk Demokrasi), who are innovative in their approach. From 2015 they are moving away from just classroom-based teaching to more action-based learning. This means that at the start of a 9-month Democracy School programme the participants identify a specific issue in the local community and during the programme they work towards making a policy proposal or piece of draft legislation which can go to the local parliament.